Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, while unvaccinated, attended three preseason games this year in street clothes. He wore a mask at none of them. This violates the plain language of the COVID protocols that were in place for the preseason.
The NFL is now trying to say that it doesn’t.
“Inactive and IR players on the sideline must be masked,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email, regarding unvaccinated players. As to the preseason games, McCarthy claims that “there was no violation as there is no active/inactive status for those games.”
Here’s the relevant portion of the protocols for training camp and the preseason as to game day: “Any individual with Bench Area Access who is not fully vaccinated, except for Active Players, shall be required to wear masks at all times.”
Although the teams don’t make in the preseason the same official inactive designations that come 90 minutes before kickoff of regular-season and postseason games, some teams definitely make advance announcements as to the players who will be inactive. The Packers did it before the first preseason game of 2021, before the second, and before the third. Thus, Rodgers was not an “Active Player” in those games. Because he also was not fully vaccinated, he should have been wearing a mask.
Indeed, the mere presence of the term “Active Players” in the protocol for PRESEASON games implies that there’s a distinction between active and inactive. Otherwise, the protocol would have simply said “Players,” not “Active Players.”
As one G.M. told PFT on Wednesday night, the league’s contention that unvaccinated players who didn’t dress for preseason need not wear a mask is in “direct contrast” to the information communicated by the league to the teams. Multiple teams were told that unvaccinated players who were present for preseason games but who weren’t in uniform had to wear masks — and to practice social distancing.
Rodgers did neither. The Packers did nothing about it. The league did nothing about it. Apparently, the league now wants to keep this specific wrinkle from becoming a major issue by claiming that a trio of blatant violations by Rodgers weren’t violations at all.
Even if they were.